Episode 111: The Politics of Human Sexuality

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community, s01e11: the politics of human sexuality:

the formatting on this is gonna be fucked, i just know it. also, i feel like i rambled for too long and didn't say what i really wanted to say. we'll see how this goes. 

let's get the most important thing out of the way first. here's what's on the wheel of remorse, as far as i can make out:

* one night stand
* forgot to take "pill"
* unwanted pregnancy
* mysterious rash
* now she's clingy
* "absti-what?"
* OH! it burns!
* too much to drink
* can't spell syphilis
* "forgot" condoms
* didn't go to the STD fair
* oh no not AIDS!
* what's your name again?
* what's an STD?
* ??? needed a ride home
* honey, I thought she was you
* boring sex
* why, that wasn't there before
* where did you come from?
* he wrote me a poem
* ??? – one I can't make out

if there is a god, the props department at community is doing her work.

jeff and pierce have danced around each other the entire series, but in this episode, we get a pretty straight forward compare/contrast plot. we watch as pierce manipulates jeff through jeff's insecurities, forcing jeff to sink to pierce's level. pierce is depicted at first as completely shallow and crude and blatantly sexist. at one point, he actually compares his girlfriend to a fish that he wants to display on his mantle. to him, doreen is just an object to show how great he is. he has the insight that jeff is similar to him in this regard, and he uses it to trick jeff into joining him on a double date to the STD fair. 

throughout their interactions on the double date, pierce tries to get jeff to compare their dates (suggesting they meet later to share eggs and details, for instance–"worst combination plate ever"). he awkwardly tries to show off his girlfriend's better qualities, but all he can see is her ability to correctly pronounce the names of wines and her physical attractiveness. jeff, to his own credit, rejects the comparison idea and sees that doreen is actually an intelligent and sophisticated person. she sees right through him and tries to give him some advice. it goes unsaid that if jeff dated doreen and pierce had a date with sabrina, everyone would likely have been much happier (for pierce and sabrina, probably only in the short term).

the episode goes out of its way to repeatedly show sabrina's superficial qualities. she objects to being called a "secretary," but misses the point on why that term might be degrading (and honestly, i think she's a little wrong that it's degrading at all. it's a word with a gendered history, but it's largely become less and less gendered as time goes on. at this point, i'm sure it still has negative connotations, but less so than "escort" or specifically gendered terms like "stewardess" or "dude".) she uses childish words like "yikers" and "tinkles." she is seduced into dating jeff through her own superficial likes and dislikes (hiphop, horses, and clean shaven faces). she clearly thinks herself deeper than she is, because jeff really wins her over with the godawful line "can you ever really own a horse?" she's symbolic of everything that jeff thinks he wants, but doesn't need. she's also one of the more offensive female stereotypes i've seen on television, but (a) we see her through jeff's eyes, more or less, and (b) her character's purpose is to make a point about the superficiality and insecurity of anyone who is immature. 

it would be easy to say that because he derives his own worth through the superficial qualities of his girlfriend, pierce also views others' worth through the same. if you look at his actions through the episode, though, he uses jeff's shallowness to get him into the double date, but once on the double date, he spends it trying to impress jeff. he clearly respects jeff, and he has brought an intelligent, sophisticated woman as his date. something in him recognizes people with better qualities than what's on their surface (even if what's on their surface is also generally appealing). that said, he spends most of the episode missing these qualities. at the end, he has a brief moment with jeff during which he manages a real human moment, but he very quickly quashes that by borrowing money to hire his ex-girlfriend as an escort. pierce's views on others' value being defined by their sexual prowess, though, is oddly backed up in small places. 

throughout the episode, maturity is connected to how men treat women. doreen calls jeff out and tells him that he's already too mature for someone as immature as sabrina. she indicates to him that she knows that he is ready for a mature relationship, and that idea will play out a bit later with slater and britta to some degree, and it seems to be part of his motivation for hesitating with annie. slater is jeff's first serious girlfriend, and shirley accurately perceives britta's role in motivating jeff to mature enough to actually be able to have a mature relationship. doreen is one of his earlier steps on that journey. i almost started to talk more about that journey, but it was going to turn into a review of the season one finale, so i stopped. let me move on a bit.

jeff mostly disregards doreen's advice at first, but when he becomes the victim of superficial judgment, he has a little epiphany and walks out on sabrina. he begins to come to terms with the journey to maturity. this is partly about his evolving view of women as more than sex objects, but it's also a bit about his security with himself as he is at greendale. he's uncomfortable there not because of the questionable quality of the education (he plans to coast through, anyway), the weirdness of the people (he's one of the most accepting individuals on the show), or the very real danger of dying from black mold, but because he knows that he's finally growing up. the people he has met at greendale are all part of his journey to maturity. britta is the primary catalyst in the first season, but everyone at greendale seems to have an effect on him. in other episodes, abed becomes almost like his mentor. pierce is both a source of wisdom and a clear warning. shirley is a bit of a moral compass on occasion. annie is, amongst other things, someone who drives him to be a good person and a source of temptation–the longer he refuses to give in to his baser desires and try to seduce her, the more he can prove to himself that he's got at least one good quality. troy is on something of a parallel journey, and someone jeff can mentor somewhat. being put into a position where he has to be a little bit of a role model forces him to evaluate himself. 

it's also worth noting here that the show is not equating maturity with age. on the surface, they do, because those are the terms doreen and britta put it into, of course, but pierce is twice jeff's age and much more immature. it might be telling us about "growing up," but it's showing us that that's just another way to say, in this instance, that they are learning acceptance and self-respect.

what i'm trying to say here is that the more jeff lets greendale and all its weird denizens affect him, the more he becomes a real human being.

yes, i said all of that just to set up that pun.

meanwhile, annie's story in this episode is more firmly about security in one's own sexuality than it is about gender poltiics. it's still, however, about maturity. annie's inexperienced (she's caught glimpses) and a bit naive (the look on her face as britta tells her that her boyfriend was gay even back when they were together illustrates this fairly well). she tries hard to teach people about safe sex, but the truth is, she doesn't quite get it. anyone who writes fortune cookies like she does really has a bit of a disconnect with how people are motivated in regards to sex. it's actually a nice little piece of characterization for annie: if she thinks that people will be motivated by that fortune cookie, it probably means it's the sort that would motivate her. it reflects her repression in an interesting way, showing that something so blunt and rather unconvincing would trigger her anxieties in such a way that would make her think it'd work on other people.

the dean is acts as her foil, and he's oddly mixed in his insecurities. he's very open about his sexuality in some ways, but he still can't muster the gumption to actually say "penis." he'll imply that he has interacted with the model phallus with his eyes closed in a very suggestive manner, but he has to have a guidance counselor and a stenographer present for his talk with annie, shirley, and britta. and yet, he adapts remarkably quickly to saying "penis" after the counselor has everyone say it. also, he lost his doorknob somehow, so he has to lock his office with a padlock. this could be a huge metaphor about his security, but really, it's just a gag on greendale.

so annie is uncomfortable with sex and sexuality. she's naive and inexperienced. her insecurity is apparent in various ways throughout the episode, but my favorite is that she has to indicate that it's an honor to be chosen for the condom demonstration. she dives head first into the STD fair, but she has to point out to everyone her contributions. she wants validation. she can't be honest with the dean about her inexperience. she goes to britta and shirley (and sets up a wonderful bit of hypocritical humor). when it comes down to it, she stands up for herself, though. she stands up for being "repressed" (which i think is more accurately described as "modest"). and then, as she's leaving, she derides the penis in general, thereby taking aways its negative power without actually ever saying the word. annie is a bad ass.

and yet, through the whole thing, her t-shirt and her backpack straps accentuate her chest in evident fan service to horny straightwads, bisexuals, lesbians, and pansexual imps everywhere. the writers of the show aren't naive, alison brie isn't insecure about her body, and we're all fucking pigs.

meanwhile, troy and abed are in a contest wherein troy is trying to prove that he's a better athlete than abed. abed is going along with it because he wants troy to be friends with him, and ultimately, he lets troy win to give troy the victory he needs. troy, meanwhile, realizes abed's a better athlete, and when it seems like it matters, he admits it. i say "seems like" because there is no way the difference in the times troy or abed would not matter at all in stopping people from using the condoms or not (and ultimately, abed sends the wrong message anyway). it's very silly, but it's a nice little story about troy's insecurities, and a nice bit of characterizations showing abed's security. shirley and britta are mostly present as foils for annie and jeff. shirley defends doreen, in a way, and subtly calls jeff out on his shallowness when she tells him not to make light of an escort just because he can't get a date. britta is a contrast to sabrina in the first scene, offering snide comments on sabrina's shallow take on feminism and the dean's idiotic response to the women's bathrooms. (if there is a better indictment of the knee-jerk tendencies of bureacracies and establishments to absolutely any percieved complaint than the dean, then i want jim rash involved in it).

britta's best moment is when she gets a hold of jeff's phone. she calls him out on how none of the women in it have names. jeff's phone is merely a collection of one night stands described in the most superficial terms. jeff is still refusing to accept this as a flaw at this point–he reacts with sarcasm to her derision. britta compares him to a twenty year old, and he's still happy in that role. when jeff finally does start to accept the journey to maturity, his first real action on that journey is to give britta a name in his phone. it's a small action, but it's delivered in a manner that's rather touching. at least he sees britta as a person now and not a goal or piece of flesh.

meanwhile, britta and shirley are symbols of two different forms of sexual experience (and not in the way illustrated by their reactions to the size of the model phallus). shirley is a good christian woman, but a married one. britta once traded something sexual for a gym sock full of nickels. they both show support for annie regardless. they're comfortable with themselves in this regard, at least, enough to laugh at the model and enjoy themselves. their reactions (and the counselor's) to annie's speech are also mostly positive, and this is something that the show can be commended on. all of the variants on sexuality represented are treated kindly, even the dean's over-the-top appreciation for the model isn't commented on. it's a punchline, sure, but annie's terror is in response to the prospect of the demonstration, and not the dean's surprisingly forthright discussion on how lifelike the fake cock is.

that's really a large part of what i love about community. it's funny. it can be outright mean sometimes. it's got a sort of pop cultural intelligence that pulls me in. but like almost all of the best comedies ever, it has a big heart. i've harped on this before, of course, but in this episode, that heart manifests in an exploration of security and acceptance. it handles it without getting preachy, and by not taking the most obvious route. they don't make annie's modesty any better or worse than britta's free spirit. pierce is a chauvinist, but he understands that he needs to be better–and who knows, maybe that extra twenty bucks he wanted from jeff was actually for a bit of conversation. jeff and troy are fighting growing up, but like everyone, they're coming to terms with it.

stray observations (ohmygawdican'tbelieveigottodothat):

  • "juror number six. that sounds above board."
  • "don't eat the crab dip, yay yay!" (shirley's face in the reaction shot is probably even better than troy's brilliant delivery)
  • "at least you have 'mommy' in here." "that's not my mom."
  • "is that considered big?" simultaneously: "yes." "no."
  • "what my dad called a 'jimmy carter.'" (shameless boasting: i've met jimmy carter twice, and he wasn't a dick either time.)
  • "harvey keitel's?"
  • "his eyes are too gentle and mysterious."
  • "but trust me, eyes closed, you can't tell the difference."
  • while discussing the model dork, the dean is drinking a juice box.
  • "what in the reverse porky's is going on here?"
  • "597? there's a dog fighting ring in my office?!"
  • "he liked s&m and merlot. he called it s&m&m."
  • "he cried after. and during. he's gay now." "he was gay then."
  • "i have to show the dean that he can trust me. we have to break into his office." "i actually have no problem with that." "i can do that."
  • "say cavernet savignon for jeff."
  • "sounds like fun." "no, it doesn't. and it won't be."
  • much love for the arm wrestling over the top homage, especially the joke with the song coming on at just the right moment.
  • britta scowls when jeff calls her his "casual friend."
  • i hate it when they use the abbreviated theme song.

commentary notes:

  • the story about annie and her gay boyfriend is based on something that really happened to alison brie. i feel like that's old news, but it's worth noting in case some of you human beings missed it.
  • they mention that jim rash had written "the next alexander payne movie," which is, of course, the descendents that is so well loved right now.
  • they note that the security guard was randomly promoted in a later episode to a full fledged cop. they also note that the actor, craig krakowski (sp?) is the brother of liz krakowski, who was a writer for the show in the first season and the woman who played the guidance counselor in this episode.
  • harmon talks about how he didn't let the writers move any story off campus in the first season, so that when it happened in the second season, it would make it feel like the show and its setting were growing. that's why there were so many dances at greendale.
  • donald glover gave out the greendale condoms to his friends as souvenirs, but told them not to use them. life imitates art!
  • dan harmon talks about how chevy chase very much wanted to do the show, and that was strange for chase. he notes that this was important for the character, though.
  • something i didn't notice the first time through: the tags in the first season tell the story of troy and abed's growing friendship. that's why they're involved in so many of them, along with the fact that fans complained when they weren't (that's mentioned in another commentary). i bet there's a compilation video of all the tags in order somewhere, but a quick youtube search gives me nothing.
  • harmon sings the theme song at table reads. that's adorable. donald glover claims the theme song is about a lynching. i think the theme song is about growing up.
  • harmon talks about how he realized after episode six that jeff and annie would be a thing, and that he realized it would come up during the first episode. he talks about how one of the things he wants to explore in the show is the idea of this group and how any of them can end up hooking up with the others.
  • there's a brief discussion about the "racism does not compute" poster that basically boils down to how the poster is ironic. also, the cast loves it.
  • harmon compares annie to mary ann from gilligan's island. i suppose that makes britta ginger, shirley mrs. howell, pierce mr. howell, troy gilligan, abed the skipper, and jeff the professor (although those last two or three switch up on occasion). 
  • i never thought about it until they mention it in the commentary, but troy and abed's slow motion after the arm wrestling contest is just them moving in slow motion and not a special effect at all. if you look behind them, everyone else is basically moving regularly.
  • harmon makes jokes about who tried out for roles, but the way he mentions that george takei tried for the dean's role didn't seem like a joke. i wonder if it was true. if so, that'd be an interesting spin on the dean.
  • harmon compares pierce to cartman. i haven't seen enough south park to comment on that (well, i might have, a long time ago), but so far pierce hasn't ground anyone's parents up and cooked them into chili. nor does he involve shitty, pretentious rock bands like radiohead in the show he's in, so he has a leg up in my book. (you heard me. wanna fight?)

20 LIKES
On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-414056147 (page 63)

Discussion:

  •  
    • "she's symbolic of everything that jeff thinks he wants, but doesn't
      need…."

      That is some excellent insight. I never quite understood the purpose of Sabrina and you've nailed it.

      Doreen, turns out to be a very important person as she foreshadows Jeff's relationship with his parents. In fact, we later find out in 216 (I think) that Jeff's mother's name is actually Doreen. As they mapped out what they thought Jeff's family was like and how it informed his later life, my guess is they remembered this Jeff-Doreen interaction from here and it clicked as something Jeff's mother would have told him. We know Jeff was a mama's boy and they had an especially close relationship because of what happened with Mr. Winger. Jeff's mother probably had him at a young age, as well.

      Edit: I read this review twice–the original formatting was a war on my brain–and I want to reiterate that this is a really excellent review. This episode would always be the odd one out when I would have mini-marathons, but you've drawn a convincing through line about insecurity, maturity and Jeff's journey to Human Beinghood. It really has nothing to do with 'sexuality' at all.

    • i can't believe you read this with the fucked up formatting. holy fuck. thank you. for future reference, i think we all know copying from a word doc or similar leads to fucked up formatting, but apparently, so does copying from notepad or similar. i shake my fist at you, disqus!

      that's interesting about jeff's mother. now that you mention it, i think i'd rather see her before we ever see his dad. he was with her through the little indian girl incident, through the foosball incident, through the divorce. what is she really like? we know he like(d?) her. also, jeff claims she still thinks he's a lawyer as of family day in s1, but that might have just been a joke. 

      and yeah, this wasn't one of my favorite episodes, but watching it closely for the sake of this review has given me a better appreciation of it. it's a pretty strong episode for character development/moments. also, the juror number six line really is a favorite line of mine. the implications of it are gloriously vile, but oh so funny.

    • I remembered reading this shot by shot analysis of Community's approach to comedy, using the opening scene from this episode as an example. Check it out:http://www.reddit.com/r/commun…

      Would not surprise me if it was someone from here.

    • i've seen that before! i forgot about it, though. if it's someone from here, they should holla so we can give them likes.

    • damnit i have to wait 14 hours before i can view that.  Is anyone else super annoyed by all these fucking SOPA blackouts.  I just want to look up random facts!

    • honestly, i think a day of blackouts is too short a time span. i say they should get enough support to cripple the entire world for a week or more.

    • glazomaniac …except where it interferes with my viewing random awesome Community things at the exact moment it pleases me. That and not worrying about what foreigners think of me are my birthrights as an American!

    • Good review! I especially like the stuff about Sabrina and Annie. Apparently, I've missed a lot of what S1 (potentially) has to say about the female characters, and I've locked more into obvious stuff like Jeff being Young Pierce and enjoying an increasingly relaxed friendship with Britta.

      My favorite part of the ep is definitely how absolutely bad the STD Fair goes. Like real sex education (and a lot of other school activities that attempt to lecture students without being aware of the opinions they've already formed), it proves hypocritical at every turn and veers into absurdity. By the time they have to make an announcement telling students not to use the condoms, it's become completely ironic.

      My least favorite part is how many standard unadorned cliches go into Jeff's storyline. He doesn't have girls' names in his phone? Did it never occur to him he'd have to know that when he called them? Or picking up a dumb girl who seems to have no second thoughts at all about boning Jeff, then leaving anyway because she reminds him that he's not that young or simple anymore? (And, really, isn't it more cruel to dismiss her like that than to actually take advantage of/sleep with her?) There are more subtle ways to make these points, and Community wouldn't stoop quite so low later on.

      (Nice Gilligan's Island comparisons, too.)

    • they talk about jeff's phone in the commentary. harmon admits it was a slight mistake, that if jeff were a "sam malone" sort, he'd know their names. the others on the commentary defend it, though, saying he didn't know the name to put in his phone in the first place. they do a better job of making it sound reasonable in the commentary than my summary, but i agree that it's a little absurd. still, it set up some of my favorite jokes in the episode. (also, donald glover deadpans that he simply thought the girl's name was "redheadat carwash.")

      And, really, isn't it more cruel to dismiss her like that than to actually take advantage of/sleep with her?

      it might hurt her feelings more in the short term, certainly, but if we assume that there's really a girl that superficial in the first place, jeff's feeding into that superficiality by sleeping with her would still be wrong. at that point, there wasn't really any action jeff could take that wouldn't end up being hurtful to her on some level. if he wanted to walk out of there without committing any unethical actions, he wouldn't have interacted with her beyond "friendly" in the first place. that said, she was definitely not the highlight of the episode.

    • well the no names thing makes more sense if he is only ever going to call them once sleep with them and then never speak to them again.   but yeah i agree that he would probably have names

    • Excellent review!

      I agree entirely with your point about Sabrina; she represents Jeff's shallow life as a lawyer, which in itself stems from his intense need to guard himself from true emotional connections with others in order to avoid being wounded again.

      As Doreen tells him, he's beginning to move past that phase already, and it's thanks entirely to the study group. Both of his subsequent romantic interests, Slater and Annie, are both women he "can have a real conversation with".

      I also find it interesting to note that, for all his supposed playboy nature, we really don't see much evidence of Jeff picking up women aside from the fling with Britta in S2.

      Also, I wonder what Annie was called in Jeff's phone, heh.

    • Hint: Can it, Boobs.

    • Yeah, that's about what I figured, especially with "Romantic Expressionism" not too far off. He was oddly specific when describing Annie's body.

    • i was definitely thinking of the dance episode when he was talking about how he preferred "tinkles" to "we need to talk." by the time he's telling britta about how if he can have a girl for a friend…, he's definitely grown up from preferring a girl who says "tinkles" and wants to fuck in his lexus. at the end of s1, he also talks about how slater and britta make him feel, then he kisses annie. it goes unsaid how annie makes him feel, but i think that harmon's commentary on this episode implies that that relationship is actually more important than it seems to be.

      i'm not a shipper, but i do find the idea that one of the themes of this show is an exploration of group dynamics and sex to be intriguing. the jeff/annie relationship seems to have developed into the heart of that. while there are hints of abed/annie, abed/troy, and troy/britta, the jeff/annie relationship is the one that seems to make dan harmon sit back and think. the age difference seems to be the main factor to it, but i think there's more to it than that. like i said before, the show doesn't generally equate maturity and age (pierce and troy bond over shared immaturity). it's not that annie's so young and jeff is so old, it's that annie is so innocent and jeff is so not. 

      how it all shakes out for those two will kinda be the cap on that theme, and i really hope we get something insightful out of it at the end of this journey.

    • Yeah, while the show focuses on the age difference a lot I really don't think it's the primary gap between the characters either; this is part of why I've grown a bit tired of it being raised again and again.

      As you note, what distinguishes Annie and Jeff is their relative innocence and maturity in certain fields. Annie's innocence is a byproduct of her age, and Jeff initially holds himself back because of the sheer physical age difference, but it morphs into a relationship where he restrains himself due to fear of exploiting her.

      That dynamic has shifted a lot since the days of "Debate 109", and I'm very interested to see how it's (hopefully) resolved this season.

      I want to see that emotional difference explored more, as it was in "Horror Fiction" , not the age difference. It's interesting to note that in Annie's horror story, the issue of age isn't raised once; she instead concerns herself entirely with the emotional issues between herself and Jeff. I'm hopeful that this reflects the way the show plans to continue exploring the relationship in the future.

    • Jeff is very good at putting on an act; he's almost always acting, especially early on. Sabrina is the sort of girl that the handsome, charming lawyer is supposed to have a one-night stand with: hot, superficial, emotionally unthreatening. He wasn't even particularly interested in her until Pierce put him up to it; it's society that expects him to show her his Lexus. Over and over again, we find him grappling with what society expects of him, particularly in the first season, and it all comes to a head in 125 when he has to choose between Britta and Slater in front of everyone, even though he didn't want to and couldn't make that choice.

      For Jeff, Annie is freedom from all of that. 
      Annie's just the opposite of someone like Sabrina.
       He's not supposed to get with Annie; she shouldn't even be a sexual prospect, and yet she is. Annie-as-freedom takes literal form in the last scene of Season 1, when he frees himself from the grasp of the whole school all looking at him and finds Annie waiting outside.

      Of course, there's a ton of emotional stuff that complicates things, but I don't think I could go into that right now without writing something really long and self-indulgent.

    •  

      TheTuna : "It's interesting to note that in Annie's horror story, the issue of age
      isn't raised once; she instead concerns herself entirely with the
      emotional issues between herself and Jeff"

      Jeff was a vampire in that story – that actually makes him super-old, though looking young on the surface. I actually thought this was a very nice, understated way of the show to hint at how Annie perceives the age difference as part an package of Jeff's dissimulating nature.

    • but I don't think I could go into that right now without writing something really long and self-indulgent.

      isn't that what this forum is for, Janine Restrepo ?

    • That's why I claimed the 125 review! Be prepared for a deluge of self-indulgent overanalysis of Jeff/Annie.

    • OccamsBlazer

      Great review, even with your opinions about Radiohead. I guess they are to you as Billy Joel is to Pierce.

      Pierce's moment with Jeff with: "A man reaches a point in his life where he stops looking for a place to hang his underwear and starts looking for a place to hang his hat."  is one of my favorite Pierce moments in the series.

      I thought Doreen was one of the most underrated guest stars from season 1. She was far from the funniest, but she was humanized so well for a character who could be terrible and broad.

      On first watch, I thought the Troy and Abed story was slight, but on repeated viewing I see how it fits nicely into the Troy maturation and becoming a better friend with Abed character arc.

      At least we know glazomaniac didn't drop out of high school to impress Radiohead.

    • billy joel is to pierce as radiohead is to glazomaniac .
      radiohead is to britta as bad religion was to  glazomaniac. (well, i didn't drop out, but…)
      bare naked ladies is to jeff as bare naked ladies is to glazomaniac.

    • wait wouldnt that make you billy joel in your analogy?  

    • …right, right. let me fix that.

    • sll03

      I am officially changing my bracelet from 'WWBJD' to 'WWGD'.  After reading your review, I feel I should consider your reaction to various situations as you seem very wise.  Also, it's more letter-efficient. 

    • now you're embarrassing me. (thank you!)

    • sll03

      I award this review 10 penis models out of 10. 

      You've made some really excellent points about Jeff's development, Troy's acceptance, Pierce's motivations, Annie's maturity, and Britta, Shirley and Abed's hilarity.  I am absolutely going to contribute to this discussion tomorrow, but since I've got class in 6 hours, I should probably attempt to get some sleep.

      I will now bid you all farewell with my favourite quote from this episode:

      "Congratu-horrible!"

      You know, I use that all the time.  Nobody ever gets it.  *sigh*

      Toodles!

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      Something I will say after most of the reviews, but one of my favorites in the season, and a truly underrated episode.

      – 'I mostly help the Dean do officey-things.' 'Oh, gender saved.' (I have to watch this one again, because this may be in fact Britta Brittaing the use of the term 'gender' when she meant to use 'sex')

      – I know the girls in Jeff's phone also include Tube-top REM concert and Cab Driver at Airport.  I have never met an attractive female cab driver.

      – The introduction of Alison's gay love story…giving hope to men everywhere that they too can one day sleep with Alison Brie.

      – 'I was thinking this morning, when I was shaving and listening to the new Jay-Z, of getting out for a ride this weekend…'

      – 'Is that considered large?' 'Yes.' 'No!' (one of the best jokes they've ever done)

      This awesome .gif (she looked amazing this episode)

      – The fact that this episode takes place exactly 9 months before the pregnancy backstory in The Psychology of Letting Go.

      – Some awesome acting by Alison Brie in this one, easily my MVP of the week; her adorable little groans, how pained she was to tell her gay love story, the way her voice shifted when she gives her 'Maybe we wouldn't have to HAVE an STD fair!' monologue.  Annie isn't my favorite character, but I bet if Alison had to leave the show she'd be the hardest to replace.

      – Given his VO in Epidemiology, suggesting that Takei did in fact try for the role of the Dean isn't such a reach to imagine.

    • Not only can you sleep with Alison Brie, but she actively wants to sleep with you, even if you're not into girls. Putting that article on the Internet was a pretty great career move for her.

      One interesting thing about this episode is its take on sexuality (which seems obvious, since it's in the title). On one hand, you have an escort playing a prominent role in the plot, and on the other, you have a girl who isn't willing to even say the word "penis", and both are portrayed sympathetically. The show is remarkably non-judgmental when it comes to female sexuality, both in this episode and throughout its run.

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      I loved the reaction to that article, because you know, a young woman going through an experimental and promiscuous phase in college is so unusual, just like a beautiful woman enjoying sex isso bizarre and scandalous.  I italicized for inflection.

      Back to the episode, before people sex one another!

      – 'Now she's clingy' was on the wheel! That is awesome!

      – I believe that this was the first instance of Chang's first name.

      – I had no problem with Sabrina as a character.  She was your typical semi-hot but empty-headed female clerical worker, those are everywhere.  Stereotypes don't just materialize out of thin air, I know this from the considerable amount of time I've spent in reality.

      – I've said before, I love the casting of Donglover as Troy; a young man of average size and below-average intelligence, and yet he was also a Quarterback.

      – 'Don't use condoms…if you have sex tonight, don't use condoms!'

      – Missing outtake – The Dean: 'I ran FIFTY feet!'

    • Because inflection is so interesting.

    • So, I didn't know what article y'all were talking about in this thread. I decided to Google it so I could be all up to speed, and, um, wow. That…I mean…I can't think straight anymore. You broke me. 

    • For the record, the basic story is true but she has stated that a lot of it was exaggerated for comedic effect.

      But still, yeah….

    • Yeah, I figured as much because, well, damn. Things like that don't just happen. Doesn't change the fact that I'm going to be totally useless for the rest of the afternoon.

    • (I have to watch this one again, because this may be in fact Britta Brittaing the use of the term 'gender' when she meant to use 'sex')

      sabrina says the term "secretary" is degrading to women, so she started the discussion with gender, not sex. if you're discussing the differences between gender roles and physical sex, it's good to use specific terms, but if you're snarkily insulting a vapid plot device, you're all right playing fast and loose.

      The fact that this episode takes place exactly 9 months before the pregnancy backstory in The Psychology of Letting Go

      not that i think you're wrong, but how do you know that? i'm just curious how you figured it out.

      i am always reminded of a certain classic vincent price voice over when i hear takei's v.o. in "epidemiology." i can't say for sure that was their intention, but if i ever have the means and need for a vincent price-esque voice over, i'm totally going takei over it.

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      Okay, if she says 'degrading to women' then it's gender…it's been a while, I thought she might have said 'oppressive to women', in which case both would have applied (as the gender role and the smaller size and less strength of women can be equally oppressed).

      Airdates;

      The Politics of Human Sexuality: December 3 2009
      The Psychology of Letting Go: October 7, 2010

      A little over ten months in actual calendar dates, but of course in Harmon's interview series, 203 and 202 were switched, so it's really about 9 months and 27 days, which is about 42 weeks.  It's certainly possible.

    • I didn't realize how much I liked this episode until one day when I was waiting at school with my friend. I had a copy of the school newspaper with me, and one of the articles was about sex ed; at one point, it brought up the question of whether condom usage should be taught in schools. This, naturally, led me to begin quoting this episode, and over the next half-hour I ended up reciting most of it. It's insanely quotable; it might be the funniest episode of the first half of Season 1. I love it. Plus the Alison Brie article is always fun to send to people who are just getting into Community.

      I've talked often here about the last scene of this episode, but I'll do it again because I love it so. I find that my very favorite scenes in the show tend to be the ones that aren't funny, or at least not riotously so; this scene has a few funny moments, but they pass fleetingly without punchlines and they would certainly be ruined if there were a laugh track involved. What I love about this scene is that it's not possible in any other show that I've seen; it really emphasizes what makes Community unique. What occurs in the scene is pretty straightforward; Jeff and Pierce have a conversation about having a family and being better people, and then Jeff changes "Hot Blonde Spanish Class" in his contacts to "Britta". The part with the phone in particular is something that could easily be cheesy and ridiculous; it isn't because Community takes itself very seriously and because its highly conventional style augments that tone.

      The conversation between Jeff and Pierce is of course part of the larger dynamic between the two. Pierce sees Jeff as someone he can mentor, but Jeff views Pierce as a cautionary tale. Where this scene works especially well is in its going beyond that simple pattern and talking about family; if this show is about anything beyond the witty dialogue and the clever callbacks and the concept episode, it's this idea that these people are a family, and that they need each other. That tone is conveyed in large part through the music, "Whistle for the Choir" by The Fratellis. That long, drawn-out refrain conveys a sense of longing and wistfulness that in turn shows just why these people need each other; alone, they're incomplete. It rings far truer emotionally than a set of random shots cut together with generic voiceover ever could. Of course, it's easy to make fun of Modern Family for that, but even Parks and Recreation (which certainly isn't afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve) can fall prey to the same trap. It's the reason so many shows nowadays use only diegetic music and employ tools like cutaways or talking heads; it's easier to tell a story that way, even if it's less fulfilling. When you make jokes about your characters instead of developing them, you get quick (and often excellent) humor, but you don't get the ability to see them grow and change, the way Jeff and Pierce are doing in this very scene. It works because we as an audience are asked to take these people seriously and to care about them. We do.

      You really knocked this review out of the park; there's so much to discuss here that I almost want to go line-by-line and comment on everything, but it's almost 1:15 in the morning, so I won't. I hope we can spend a few days discussing this one, because it's worth it.

    • Annie: the girl who can't say the word 'penis'
      Britta: the girl who can't stop saying the word 'penis'

      And yet, they have opposing motivations for these neuroses. Annie wouldn't say it because she was sexually repressed and then adopted that as a virtue, but that's not to say she wouldn't totally devour a penis or so many phallic objects and symbols if she wanted to. Annie is all about OWNING everything she does and once she grew out of that self-imposed repression, she discovered her sexuality and then aggressively utilized it for her benefit. So even if she's still a bit prudish and won't talk openly about sex, she knows how to use it and it manifests almost as a competitive exercise for her, i.e., "What a sad, broken man you are. Give me that thing; you don't know how to do it!"

      On the other hand, Britta has plenty of sex, and while she won't advertise her skankiness, she won't carry any shame about it either. But as much as she'd like to think of herself as a vampish man eater, sex is all about her emotional need to be validated as a 'girl'. She thinks about penises a lot because she thinks she's supposed to. She struggles with the irony of being beholden to someone else's fleshy rod for her individual validation, which is basically the basis for a lot of militant feminism in the world and certainly Britta's.

      Sorry if none of that made sense and/or was offensive to every female in the world.

    • sll03

      Offense taken!

      Nah, I'm totally kidding: I think you're right.  It's always so neat to examine Britta and Annie (clarification: the characters of Britta and Annie, pervs) and see how they can really act as complete opposites.  I believe it was avclub-965c7e20fe1bdd2cd971338fb0fd76ae who said 'Britta got boobs too early; Annie got boobs too late'.  This may sound a bit sad, but that is actually a really accurate way of summing them up in a nutshell.  One is just now honing her ability to use sexuality as a tool, and sometimes misfiring in the process, while the other has been using her sexuality as means of achieving a sense of connection and empowerment (feigned or otherwise).  Perhaps this is why Britta seems rather guarded at first glance but is actually quite vulnerable, deep down, whereas Annie always appears so friendly, yet has the potential to be positively calculating.  Either way, I love 'em both.

    • Nice review.  And don't worry about the long pun set-up, i once read a book where an entire chapter was devoted to setting up one magnificent/groan-worthy pun. 

      One thing i've noticed on rewatch is how rare it is to have a subplot with the three girls and no guys so it was nice to rewatch this and see Britta and Shirley so willing to help Annie.   I have some theories on why we so rarely see britta and annie together but since i'm doing romantic expressionism i think i'll save them for that review (they will fit in very well there). 

      I loved the Over the Top reference in this episode as that is a really goofy and ridiculous movie and that scene was just hilarious.  I especially love the way Pudi re-adjusts his hand by uncurling and recurling his fingers.  Just a beautiful bit of physical comedy.

      I think you nailed Jeff here and the influence of Doreen.  I think events in Jeff's life have matured him more than he acknowledges so the moment at the end was not just him accepting that Britta can be a friend but also was him accepting his place in the study group and his place in Greendale, something he has assiduously avoided thus far.  He has tried to keep the school and the study group at arm's length (see football feminism and you where he was trying to keep his picture off posters associated with Greendale) but i think this is the moment when he gives in.  After all at some point you have to learn to stop worrying and love Greendale 

    • REVEEEEEEEEEEEEENGE!

      ….on Disqus.

    •  

      This was supposed to go out as a response to a post by Walking NPR which has since mysteriously vanished:

      I would like to point that the teddy bear Abed wins at the fair has a very brief cameo in Epidemiology (http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… and a longer one in Documentary Filmmaking Redux (http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…, as maybe a prop for the Dean's guest – the man-baby who wasn't there to play the dawn of a new era in education.

      The prop department really deserves some sort of award for doing things like this…

    • Nice catch!  And yeah, I guess today it's my turn for Disqus to insist I don't exist :(

    • you have the eyes of an eagle, but thankfully not the eating habits.

      (seriously, that's pretty impressive. why did it end up in those places? i demand an episode about this bear's adventures.)

    •  

      Abed forgot it in the ensuing kerfuffle, once the truth about the Dean's condoms came out. Then that janitor who's in love with a mannequin leg took it to the school basement for who knows what manner of unsavory trysts. There the giant bear lay, until one day the Dean found it, as he was rummaging in the basement in search of props for his epic ad (and subsequent wrap party, as it seems).

      I'd like to add that I do have some actual comments about your fantastic review, but I don't have any time to post anything of substance for the moment.

    • i scoff at the implication that your enlightening speculation isn't "of substance."

       

    • Great review. I choose to interpret the theme song as Donald does. "Give me a rope, tie me to tree…"

      This is an important point in Jeff's maturation as a person in terms of his relationships with women. We see it here from his point of view, and we'll see in again in 114 from the perspective of two of the women in his life.

    • Okay, since my briiiiiiiiiiiiiiilliant thoughts about the episode appear to have vanished into the ether forever, I'll try and type them up again, probably just in time for Disqus to finally repost the first one and make me look like a fool–like a fool, I say!!  Damn you, Disqus, you will not defeat me! (eh, you probably will).

      Good points, @glazomaniac and everyone else, too!

      Like @mrratfink below, I loved seeing the three girls get a story together. Everything about it was adorable, especially the scene where they're peeking through the door at the model.  One nice .character bit for Shirley was seeing her love of gossip trump her religious impulses, at least in the moment:  instead of being upset hearing that Annie has had premarital sex, she’s virtually salivating over the girl talk/gossip aspect of it.  I also enjoyed that she was the one to suggest that Annie should’ve seen a penis on the internet—is that what Shirley thinks everyone else is doing with all their time on the internet, or is this a glimpse of Shirley’s naughtier side?

      I miss Wise Pierce. I don't fully understand why they've moved away from him entirely, but I really enjoyed his judiciously-used moments of episode-capping wisdom and it added a nice dimension to his character that made you realize why these people couldn't write him off entirely.

      I know I’ve seen the compiled tags also, but I don’t know where to find it.  I enjoyed that Troy’s letter jacket made a reappearance in this tag, capping an episode that was all about Troy’s athleticism and insecurities.

      Random thoughts:
      –For addition to the story arc collections we were making a few pages back, I submit: The Officer Cackowski-Annie antagonism Triology: this episode, Conspiracy Theories, and Foosball.  He just wishes everyone would get a shoe safe….
      –Shirley’s Rules For Life: No taking pot shots at escorts.  Suing strippers, however, is okay.
      –I rewound the scene with Troy punching the teddy bear more time than I care to admit
      –Thank you for transcribing the wheel of remorse!  I couldn’t make it out on my little computer screen

    • there is a little bit of antagonism between office Cackowski and Annie in 'The Science of Illusion'

    • I thought I was forgetting an interaction between them!  Umm…The Officer Cackowksi-Annie Antagonism Tetraology?  Saga? Saga.  Definitely.

    • Really interesting observation about Shirley's reaction to Annie's story; I had never noticed that before.

    • as soon as i saw the wheel, i knew it would be the most important thing to talk about. i really want to know what that last one is.

      –Shirley’s Rules For Life: No taking pot shots at escorts.  Suing strippers, however, is okay.

      to be fair, the whole point of that episode is that lawyers corrupt your soul within seconds of meeting them. still, the juxtaposition is pretty damned wonderful.

    • Oh, I'm not knocking Shirley–the other difference is that she had something personal against the stripper.  I just immediately thought of Accounting for Lawyers when I heard the escort line and was tickled.